Wednesday 29th April 2015
The Fortescue, or the Fortescue Hotel to give it its full title, is a pub I like to visit whenever I’m in Plymouth. I have probably been coming here for the last ten years and only now am I getting round to writing about it. Its name derives from the aristocratic Fortescue family who have connections with the hamlet of Whympston in South Devon. Their seat is to be found in Wiltshire.
The origin of the name came about at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The story goes as follows; Richard le Fort saves the life of William the Conqueror by deflecting arrows with his shield.
After that he was known as Fort-Escu, meaning in Norman French, strong shield. The fact that his name was already Fort seems to have been dismissed in this tale, as he really should be Fort-Fort-Escu! Later his family adopted as their motto: Forte scutum salus ducum; "a strong shield is the safety of leaders".
Back to slightly more modern times, the first recorded account of the pub came in 1867. Later, in 1893 it was at 13, Mutley Plain. In 1899 it was at No 14.
This does not reflect that the pub had moved, but more to the haphazard system in what was no more than a village on the outskirts of the city.
Later it was to be found at No 37, and it still hadn’t moved! By now the jurisdiction of the City Council had extended to Mutley and this was the number assigned to the property, and so it is today.
The pub was completely rebuilt between 1904 and 1905 by architect S.M.J. Hodge. And now to the difficult bit, as always. Which brewery built it and whose beer did it sell for the majority of its life? You would think this was the easiest bit but it rarely is.
There is a small clue in that there is a floor plaque in the entrance door proclaiming it to be a “Festival Ale House”. This was an attempt in the 1990s by Allied Breweries to replicate Whitbread’s Hogshead ale houses.
Allied Breweries pubs in the south were normally branded as Ind Coope. In 1927 Ind Coope of Romford and Burton-on-Trent merged with Samuel Allsopp also of Burton on Trent to form Ind Coope and Allsopp. In 1934 company took over the New Victoria Brewery of Mutley. Without any further conclusive proof I think this is the company that built the pub in 1905.
A further clue is provided by the embossed “HP” in the wall above the entrance. The New Victoria Brewery was in Hyde Park Road at the north end of Mutley Plain and I think it was once known as the Hyde Park Brewery, thus the initials.
Allied Breweries pubs become part of the Punch Taverns estate. Later part of that was separated to form the Spirit Group. Finally, Spirit were bought by Greene King in 2015. I sincerely hope that they don’t mess with or introduce their beers to the Fortescue.
The pub is long and thin with the bar on the left. It was two bars at once, possibly three and the bar counter reappears further along the room. This is very much a local’s pub supporting the local community. I think every town or district should have a pub like this. What makes the Fortescue different from most urban pubs is the terrific beer and cider selection.
I was with Alistair and Robert that day and we had a choice of: Bay’s (Paignton, Devon) Dumpling (5.1%); Skinner’s (Truro, Cornwall) Betty Stoggs (4.0%); St Austell (St Austell, Cornwall) Proper Job (4.5%); Timothy Taylor (Keighley, West Yorkshire) Landlord (4.3%); Summerskill’s (Plymouth, Devon) Westward Ho! (4.1%); Purity (Great Alne, Warwickshire) Ubu (4.5%) and finally, the magnum opus, Blue Anchor (Helston, Cornwall) Spingo Special (6.6%). This pub is a very rare outlet for this classic from the ancient pub brewery.
The cider selection consisted of a number from Weston’s (Much Marcle, Herefordshire): Old Rosie (7.3%); Rosie’s Pig (4.8%); Family Reserve (5.0%); Country Perry (4.5%) and Raspberry Twist (4.0%). There was also Thatcher’s (Sandford, Somerset) Cheddar Valley (6.0%) and their Heritage (5.0%). Finally there was Sandford Orchards (Crediton, Devon) Fanny’s Bramble (4.0%).
Apart from the usual packaged snacks, the only meals available are at Sunday lunchtime when roast dinners are served. These are well thought of. This is a great pub and I wish there were more like it in other towns and cities.
The Fortescue Hotel, 37 Mutley Plain, Mutley, Plymouth PL4 6JQ. Tel: 01752 660673
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11.00-23.00; Friday-Saturday 11.00-24.00; Sunday 12.00-23.00
The pub is just over half a mile from Plymouth railway station, directions below.
There are many buses from the city centre. They depart from Royal Parade and go from a multitude of stops. Buses from there to Mutley Plain are:
27, 28, 28A, 28B, 35, 35A, 40, 41, 42, 42A, 42B, 42C, 44, 61 and 62.
From Plymouth station turn left at the main exit / entrance. Walk past the car park into Glen Park Avenue. Continue to the end and turn left into Restomel Road. Turn immediately right in front of the railway lines. Cross Sutherland Road and keep walking in the same direction. You are in Gordon Terrace. This changes to Napier Terrace and finally you arrive in Mutley Plain. Turn left and you will see the pub on the opposite side. Use the crossing that is just beyond the pub. You should allow at least 15 minutes. More if you are catching a train.
Apart from local trains, Plymouth station is served by Great Western trains to London via Exeter. Also there are Cross Country trains to Exeter and the North via Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield, York and Newcastle.